disasters, dogs, Ex, music

“I was a fool to care”…

We’re back from our few days of whimsy in France, capped off by a concert by James Taylor. We came home last night from the show to find that Arran made a big mess. First, there was a pile of crap on the rug. I cleaned that up, as Bill discovered the mess he left in the basement, after breaking through the flimsy barrier Bill tried to erect. We keep some food in the basement, because like most German houses, this house lacks a proper pantry.

Arran got into noodles, old taco shells, chocolate drink mix (which he didn’t seem to get much of, thankfully), and graham crackers. There was chewed up cardboard and plastic everywhere, as well as drink powder, smashed pasta, and other assorted debris that we cleaned up at 11:00pm. Then, I discovered a pee spot on the same rug Arran has designated his own private indoor Klo (German for potty). I don’t know why, but he always chooses my favorite rugs to befoul. The funny thing is, it appeared that Noyzi had nothing whatsoever to do with the mischief making. He was in his bed when we got home, apparently long asleep. He saw me, wagged his tail, and asked for a belly rub.

Arran has always done this kind of stuff, given an opportunity, but the steroid meds he takes make him even hungrier and more determined than ever. Fortunately, he seems to be suffering no ill effects today. Bill usually does a very obsessive job of “beagle proofing” before we go out anywhere. He takes everything up from under the counter and puts the stuff in the bathroom or on top of the counter. And he makes a point of putting the most dangerous stuff in cupboards or high shelves.

Arran tried very hard to make up with me after trashing the basement and befouling my rug.

Unfortunately, we had forgotten about some stuff in the basement that’s been there awhile. We don’t have a door to stop Arran from going down there, though we do use a baby gate. He managed to push past it, even though Bill parked a crate of beer behind it. I guess we’re going to have to build a wall… or maybe invest in a Schrank (portable cupboard). It’s a good thing I don’t go out that often.

In spite of his raid on our dry goods, Arran seems to be fine today. He slept through the night and eagerly ate his breakfast. He could tell I was pissed at him last night, and snuggled next to me, because obviously he couldn’t help himself. Poor guy. We got the bills for his last four chemo treatments. They came to about 445 euros. Added to the first bill, which was under 300 euros, I can still say that German chemo for dogs is very reasonably priced. And even though Arran is naughtier than ever, it’s restored him to his old self… at least temporarily. So, we’ll take it and try to enjoy him, even though he really can be a little shit sometimes. But then, that’s part of his charm.

Now, to address today’s blog post title…

As I mentioned last night, Bill and I saw James Taylor perform. This show was originally supposed to happen in February 2022, but COVID numbers were too high at that time, so it was postponed until November 8. Then, James got COVID and had to cancel several shows. Luckily, Frankfurt wasn’t cancelled, but it was postponed. So we went last night and had a really good time. I see from Setlist.fm that James cut a few songs from the show– songs he did in Stuttgart, which was the last show he did before he got sick. Still, it was an excellent concert, and we were happy with the songs he did perform. There was no need for him to do more, especially since I could see that he was probably still a little fatigued from COVID. He still seemed a little pale and shaky to me, but it didn’t stop him from singing, playing, and jumping around the stage like a younger man. And as a fan since, at least, the late 70s, I left the concert hall very satisfied. I was particularly impressed that he took the time to sign a lot of stuff for his fans. I chose not to try for an autograph myself, but I enjoyed seeing how happy he made some of the other concertgoers. James Taylor obviously loves what he does, and that is a joy to see. He’s a lucky man, but we are just as lucky to witness him doing what he was obviously born to do.

One song James didn’t play was one from the 70s called “I Was a Fool to Care”. This song, from Gorilla, an album he released in 1975, was performed at a show in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2015. He looks a bit haler in the video below…

Here, he has a full band. Last night was a more pared down production, but I was in the second row, which was a great experience.

This song is about unrequited love– a man realizes that the woman he loves is not really worthy of his love. She lies and cheats. He’s heard about it through the grapevine, but brushed the warnings aside, even though she’s not a good person. He loves her anyway, even though it’s obvious she’s a liar who is using him, playing him for a fool. I’m not in a situation like that. Thankfully, I managed to find a good partner, and we love and trust each other. However, we both came with baggage… and that includes people on either side of our families who probably aren’t worth so much of our love and attention. It’s hard, though, not to care, if you are naturally a caring, decent person. Or even if you care about other people’s opinions of you…

Recently, I wrote about how my husband’s former wife has “targeted” his stepmother for financial “assistance”. I first noticed it (this time) in the spring. I write “this time” in parentheses, because Ex has a history of using people. She has used Bill’s stepmother repeatedly. In the past, nothing has really been done about it, because Ex has a way of shell-shocking people into being silent. However, we have been on the receiving end of complaints about how ungrateful and unkind Ex is. We have seen, personally, how she has used Bill’s father and stepmother for money and material goods, as well as manipulative tools/flying monkeys against her victims. And now, since he reconnected with his daughter, we’ve heard that this shit has been ongoing with a number of victims, some of whom are elderly and/or infirm.

At least one of the things Ex has been accused of doing is a felony. If she was to be caught and prosecuted, she could be heavily fined and/or spend several years in prison. Ex’s husband works in healthcare, and she has had elderly relatives living with her. She also has two children in the home who have different levels of autism, for whom she receives money from the state. I don’t know if either of them take medication, but I do know that at least one of the elderly relatives was prescribed opiates. And Ex allegedly helped herself to them, which is illegal and potentially dangerous.

As I write this post, I’m remembering that around the time she was bugging SMIL, Ex was also talking about getting a dog for her son. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t cause too much alarm… except that dogs can be exploited for drugs, too. As I was looking up laws where Ex lives, I ran across a 2017 article from the Washington Post about people who use their pets to get prescription meds. I don’t see a gift option for this article, so below are a few excerpts:

Last year in Virginia, a dog owner took his boxer to six veterinarians to get anti-anxiety pills and painkillers for his own use before he was caught, according to Fairfax County police, who said the owner was eventually charged with prescription fraud.

In Kentucky in 2014, a woman was accused of cutting her golden retriever twice with a razor so she could get drugs. And in the early 2000s, a man in Ohio allegedly taught his dog to cough on cue so the owner could get hydrocodone.

Such cases are believed to be rare, but authorities are working to cut off the supply of abused drugs. The Fairfax County Police Department recently published a brochure showing veterinarians how to spot a “vet shopper.”

The clues include: new patients bringing in seriously injured animals, requesting certain medications by name, seeking early refills of prescriptions and claiming that medications had been lost or stolen.

The Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine issued emergency regulations in June limiting the duration of prescriptions that may be ordered for controlled substances. A vet may provide a seven-day supply and a seven-day refill only after reevaluating the animal.

For chronic conditions, the vet may prescribe an opioid for six months but must see and reevaluate the animal before prescribing more.

I absolutely do think Ex is capable of this kind of fuckery. I’d like to think she isn’t– as she comes across as a very nice, reasonable person online, or at least that is the image she tries very hard to project. But again, I know people who know her, and I’ve seen the literal scars she’s left on Bill. I don’t know if she’s abused anyone else in the way she abused my husband, but I do know that people close to her have been burned. She continues to do this stuff, though, because people allow it. It’s easier to look the other way than call the cops.

Some people seem to think there’s nothing we can do about this situation. As I have mentioned more than once, I totally disagree. However, I don’t think I’m the one who should make the report, because I’m not the one who has seen the evidence firsthand. Moreover, SMIL and I don’t have much of a relationship. From the beginning of my marriage to her stepson, she has treated me like a homewrecking interloper. I am neither of those things; however, I am also not a doormat. So I don’t get too close to her, because frankly, I don’t have to, and I don’t really want to. SMIL isn’t my responsibility. Frankly, I find her immature, manipulative, and disrespectful. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care what happens to her. It also doesn’t mean that I never hear from other people who do have a close relationship to her and love her very much. I don’t want to see SMIL being victimized. She isn’t malevolent; she’s just very insecure. And I know that she is loved by many people.

Personally, I think it’s time legal action was taken, but I also know it’s not my call to make. So maybe I am a “fool to care”. Why waste time even thinking about this? It’s not my problem, and some people already seem to think I’m a heartless bitch, anyway. I can’t win, so I might as well do whatever causes me less grief. But because I’m not actually a heartless bitch, I do write about it, which seems to make some people feel like they need to conflate their experiences with ours. These are different people in different states, and what worked or didn’t work for some people might or might not work in this situation. Moreover, it’s just not helpful to tell someone who is concerned about a problem that nothing can be done. Especially when you don’t actually know any of the people involved.

I understand that sometimes, people do this because they’re frustrated, or they tried to do something in a similar situation and were dissatisfied with the results. There’s every chance that the same thing might happen in this situation. Or, maybe it won’t. Or maybe nothing will happen. Anyway, I just don’t think being dismissive or skeptical is useful. I just fear that at some point, what Ex does is eventually going to be egregious enough that someone will be forced to take some action. There could even be a tragedy involved. And if something tragic happens, it’s highly likely that people will wonder why no one ever said or did anything about Ex before the issues managed to get to that point.

We can’t win, can we. So maybe we really are fools to care. Or maybe I am… because it’s not really my problem. So, I think I’m going to write on my travel blog… and then go read more of Michael Cohen’s latest book.

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dogs, ethics, Ex, money

The road to wealth doesn’t require “rocket fuel”…

It hasn’t been the best week for finance in the United States. Bill and I don’t have a lot of wealth, but I have been diligently investing money for about ten years. While it’s not anything that would make us wealthy, it’s a tidy sum that neither of us ever thought we’d have. It’s distressing to see our stock portfolio lose value so quickly… but experience has taught me that the stocks will eventually go up again. And even if they don’t, the lower prices just mean that our money will buy more shares when the next automatic draft goes through.

I never thought a falling stock market would ever be one of my problems. I never expected to have enough money to invest. I came into our marriage with a lot of consumer debt and hefty school loans. Bill had a foreclosure and a bankruptcy, plus was paying Ex tons of child support. Meanwhile, she was denying him access to his daughters and his former stepson, for whom he was also paying support. I’ve written a lot about that situation, and how unfair it was… and how damaging and hurtful it was– to Bill, to me, and to his children. Before the divorce, Bill had enjoyed a loving relationship with his daughters and his ex stepson. Ex decided that it was better to demonize Bill than do the right thing by her children.

After the divorce, Bill was wrongly characterized as a woman-hating, cheating, abusive monster. Ex did everything she could to delete him from his children’s memories and make them hate their dad– half of their DNA that she willingly used to fertilize her ripe eggs. Once they were born and their marriage eventually disintegrated, she tried to come off as mother of the year, conveniently ignoring that she apparently has horrible taste in men… having had two failed marriages and forced her eldest three children to reject their fathers because they were “bad” people. Of course, that’s a bunch of hogwash. Ex’s first two husbands were perfectly satisfactory fathers and husbands. She’s just a liar.

Well… maybe I shouldn’t write about this… but I’m going to anyway, because it’s Sunday and I don’t have any other burning topics in mind. And because she makes me want to puke. Also, I have a feeling Alexis will get a kick out of it, and Alexis is probably my most loyal reader.

One thing I have learned over the past nineteen years of marriage is that the road to wealth doesn’t require “rocket fuel”. When I write that, I mean that the vast majority of people don’t become wealthy because they fall for a “get rich quick” scheme. According to a Yahoo! Finance article, the five steps that will lead a person to wealth are:

  1. Avoid (and Pay Down) Debt. Debt is not necessarily bad in all instances, but it is something to be avoided most of the time. …
  2. Spend Intentionally and Minimize Costs. …
  3. Invest as Much as Possible in a Diversified Portfolio. …
  4. Work on Your Career. …
  5. Find Extra Work.

One of Bill’s biggest complaints about his first marriage was that there was never enough money, even though he worked very hard. Ex had a very rigid idea of where and how she wanted to live. But she wasn’t willing to work with Bill to make it happen. So, for most of their marriage, he was the sole breadwinner. He foolishly let her handle their finances, and she spent money they didn’t have on stupid things. She did things like purchase furniture and carpeting for their “money pit” house when Bill didn’t have steady or well-paid employment. She hired people to landscape the house she decided she had to have because it looked like one she’d once seen in a snow globe. She used money she got in an accident settlement to buy truly useless crap– sometimes with the excuse that she intended to sell it on eBay once its value appreciated. One time, she even bought two cars without Bill’s input– other than his money, that is. She bought a brand new van and a Miata and delivered the Miata to Bill when he was working. She did this completely on her own, without consulting Bill.

Consequently, when I met Bill, he was the not so proud owner of several high interest, low limit credit cards, including an Aspire Card (at that time, it was a Providian Card, but it later became Aspire). Aspire, if you don’t know, is a credit card for people who have terrible credit ratings.

I have never had bad credit, but I was never in the habit of saving or investing, and I’ve never been great at making money. And graduate school was expensive, and I had to take out loans to finance it. I did have graduate assistantship positions, which knocked a lot of off the cost of my tuition. But I lived alone, and had to pay my living costs. When I finished school in 2002, which is also the year we married, I was pretty broke.

For the first few years of our marriage, Bill and I basically treaded water to keep our finances stable. But then, Bill got the call to go to Iraq, and I was left to handle the money. I decided that while he was gone, I was going to do what I could to improve our situation. I started by paying slightly more than the minimum on my student loans. It was just an extra $20 a month at first, but as time passed, I paid more. My loans were paid off in 2018, nine years ahead of time. I also paid off all of Bill’s shitty credit cards with high interest rates and low limits. A year after I did that, USAA offered to let him have a credit card again, after he lost it thanks to the bankruptcy he went through with Ex. He also qualified for a much cheaper car loan, so we refinanced our loan for the vehicle we had at the time. Then I paid it off ahead of time. I did the same with my car, which is now 13 years old and has been paid off for eight years.

Since we’ve been married, Bill has finished two master’s degrees courtesy of the Army. He does good work at his job, and is paid accordingly. We don’t worry about money anymore. I have every expectation that he will never again experience financial hardships– at least not the kind he did with Ex, which was mostly brought on by very stupid and wrong-headed financial decisions.

So what does this have to do with Ex? Well, once again, it appears that she’s trying to appear to be someone and something she’s not. Like, for instance, she’s trying to look like a responsible and caring mother. For the past few months, Ex has been announcing her intentions to get a service dog for her youngest child, who has autism and is, according to Ex, non-verbal. Service dogs are expensive, and require a lot of care. Moreover, Ex doesn’t have the greatest track record in taking care of living things like dogs… and her own children. That’s usually left up to other people, like Bill when they were married, and Bill’s older daughter now.

Every time I see her mention on social media wanting a service dog, I am reminded of the fate of the poor elderly poodle she inherited when her father died. That dog knew and loved Bill. She moved #3 into the home when Bill went back into the Army. One day, #3, who was at that time just shacking up with Ex and not yet married to her, got very angry and kicked the dog so hard that she lost an eye. Bill was told about this incident by one of the children, and I later confirmed it when I looked up #3 on Arizona’s public court page. Ex denied that it happened, but there it was, in black and white, #3’s animal cruelty charge. #3 is still married to Ex, but now she’s talking about wanting another dog in their home to be a “companion” to her teenaged son with autism.

How is Ex going to finance this goal? Does she plan to get a job? Is she paying down debts? Evidently not… according to her public social media. Instead of getting the money through practical and assured means, she’s decided to enter a sweepstakes sponsored by Rocket Mortgages. I’ve also seen her tweeting celebrities for help in reaching this goal. Now… I highly doubt that Ex will ever get her hands on a service dog. Her big ideas are usually overcome by events. I’m not sure why she’s so hot on the idea of a service dog now, anyway.

Reminds me of Publisher’s Clearing House.
“That’s what I used to think!”
Or American Family Publishers

Maybe it’s because older daughter is, perhaps, finally making some noises about leaving Ex’s home and living life on her own terms. I would love to hope that’s true, since older daughter is 30 years old and has more than done her time being Ex’s slave. Ex has already used her daughters in many ways, to include forcing them to give her the proceeds of student loans to finance her household expenses. I would love to see older daughter get out on her own. Maybe that will happen someday, but it probably won’t happen before the youngest kid is an adult.

But… to look at Ex’s social media accounts, she’s just the world’s most caring and loving mother. I don’t know how many people are buying her bullshit. I do think, however, that she has no business getting a service dog. I hope any agency considering giving her son a dog will do some research. I highly doubt she’s any better with money or relationships than she was 20 years ago. At best, the service dog will turn into just one more thing older daughter has to take care of. But if Ex happens to win, I take comfort in realizing that she’s probably more likely to spend the money on herself than buy an expensive dog for her son. That’s been her habit so far.

So ends today’s Ex related rant… And yes, I understand that it’s not my business what Ex does. Except that I am a dog lover, and it upsets me to think that an innocent dog might share a home with a man who once got so angry that he kicked an elderly poodle’s eye out… and a woman who is abusive on every possible level. That poor dog would just wind up being another slave in Ex’s wheel of discontent.

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condescending twatbags, healthcare, Military, obits, politicians, politics, poor judgment, stupid people

Another Republican politician dies of COVID-19. It’s like watching Darwinism in real time…

Last night, after I played my latest solo project for Bill, I took a gander at the news. There it was… another sad news story about a “freedom fighter” dying of COVID-19, years before her time. This time, the deceased was one of my contemporaries, 46 year old Kelly Ernby, who was a “rising star” in conservative politics in California.

Ms. Ernby was a political newcomer and served as the Deputy District Assistant Attorney in Orange County. Two years ago, she ran for an Orange County state Assembly seat as a Republican candidate, challenging Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon in the primaries. Ernby lost to Dixon, who then lost to Democrat Cottie Petrie-Norris.

In spite of losing the election, Ernby remained passionate about politics. Before the pandemic, Ernby was especially riled up about a California state law that tightened immunization rules for children in school. According to the Los Angeles Times, Erby said at the time:

“I don’t think that the government should be involved in mandating what vaccines people are taking,” she said. “I think that’s a decision between doctors and their patients…. If the government is going to mandate vaccines, what else are they going to mandate?”

More recently, Ernby was fighting COVID-19 vaccine mandates. On December 4, 2021, Ernby spoke publicly outside the Irvine City Hall against vaccine mandates at a rally organized by a group called Turning Point USA, which has chapters at the University of California, Irvine and California State University, Fullerton. The Los Angeles Times reports that the event drew “dozens”… which may be impressive, given it was California.

Ernby, who was the daughter of Navy veterans, said “There’s nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now…” She also compared the vaccine mandates to so-called 1960s era “socialist ideals”, claiming that requiring people to be vaccinated is a violation of their civil rights. I would submit that freedom is totally useless when you’re dead.

I think she should have been paying more attention to what was going on in her own backyard. If she spent any time in Norway, she might have noticed that Europeans, as a whole, are more community minded than Americans are, and less selfish. Also, Norway is not nearly as populated and has a very different medical system. It’s interesting that she was a Republican, but looked favorably at a country with universal healthcare coverage as a model to emulate.

Kelly Ernby, who was unvaccinated, is now dead, and leaves a grieving husband, who has been speaking out against conservative wingnuts who are falsely claiming that his wife died because she was vaccinated. After Ernby’s death was announced, seemingly left-leaning trolls flooded Ernby’s Facebook and Twitter accounts with laughing reactions and mocking comments. They did the same to Ernby’s husband. Mattias Axel Ernby’s social media accounts are now being hammered with comments from people on either side of the spectrum. Lefties are laughing about her death, while right wingers are promoting ridiculous conspiracy theories. It’s a fucking circus and a disgrace.

It’s too bad she wasn’t vaccinated. I have read that Kelly Ernby was a somewhat sensible Republican. She might have done some real good.

I don’t think it’s funny that Kelly Ernby died. I think it’s sad, and it was probably preventable. If she had been vaccinated, she probably wouldn’t have gotten so sick that she died at just 46 years old. I think it’s shameful that such an obviously bright and articulate woman didn’t take COVID-19 seriously enough to save herself and get a safe, effective vaccination. I think it’s sad that her widower now has to deal with Internet assholes who are taking this opportunity to harass him, when they should show him basic respect and leave him alone so he can grieve.

After I read about Kelly Ernby’s unfortunate death, I saw another article run by the Army Times about how the Navy has been blocked from acting against 35 sailors who refused COVID vaccines on “religious grounds”. A federal judge in Texas has granted a primary injunction against Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s decision to make COVID vaccines mandatory. Although servicemembers can theoretically refuse to get vaccinated for religious or other grounds, no one who has applied for an exception to policy has been granted the waiver. So Justice Reed O’Connor, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, wrote:

“The Navy servicemembers in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect… The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”

Again, to Judge O’Connor, I would say that freedom is pretty useless when a person is dead. I have never served in the military, but I have been around military folks my whole life. One thing I know is that the people who sued for the right to skip COVID vaccines should probably start looking for new work. I think their careers are over now. Of course, I could be wrong… but I doubt I am. The Army Times continued:

O’Connor wrote that they objected to being vaccinated on four grounds: “opposition to abortion and the use of aborted fetal cell lines in development of the vaccine; belief that modifying one’s body is an affront to the Creator; divine instruction not to receive the vaccine, and opposition to injecting trace amounts of animal cells into one’s body.”

“Plaintiffs’ beliefs about the vaccine are undisputedly sincere, and it is not the role of this court to determine their truthfulness or accuracy,” the judge wrote.

What I do know is that the military depends on the concept of “readiness”, which means that everyone has to be “ready” to deploy anywhere in the world. The last place an unvaccinated person needs to be is on a ship or a submarine, with super tight quarters and no access to medical facilities. We also know that COVID-19 spreads faster than a hooker’s legs. So a COVID positive person on a ship, in a tank, or an airplane, or any of the other tight spots where servicemembers typically operate, would be potentially disastrous.

Vaccines are just part of military and government service life. They were part of my Peace Corps experience, too. I had to get MANY shots to serve in Armenia, and I still came home with a nasty bug that took three courses of very strong antibiotics to get rid of permanently. I don’t know what these sailors have been doing over the course of their careers, but I’d love to know how COVID-19 can be exempted on religious grounds, when they clearly had no issues with the other shots they no doubt had to receive.

I went to the comment section, because I noticed a lot of gleeful laughter and love reactions. Sure enough, the first comment was by a guy who claimed that vaccines don’t work. He based his comment on the fact that vaccinated and boosted people are still getting infected. One lone brave man made a comment challenging him. I decided to chime in too, even though I usually regret communicating with certain military types, because a lot of them are ignorant and don’t appreciate “uppity women” like me. In fact, I noticed that the guy did respond to me, but I chose to ignore him completely, because I was about to go to bed.

What I wrote was that the vaccines are intended to prevent people from getting seriously ill. They are to keep people out of the hospitals so that folks with chronic diseases can still access care and the poor doctors and nurses who have to take care of the sick and dying can get a respite. I will admit I was a little testy in my response, mentioning that people who think they know more than scientists do are DYING, and many of them are pitifully BEGGING for the vaccines before they go. And then I linked the story about Kelly Ernby, who is just the latest Republican “anti-vaxxer victim” who has succumbed to COVID-19.

As much as I dislike it when people behave irresponsibly or ignorantly, I don’t take any pleasure in reading or hearing about people dying of COVID-19, alone, and gasping for breath or waiting to be intubated. I don’t laugh at people who die because they are stubborn or willfully ignorant. I think it’s tragic, and I feel sad for the people left behind when these folks refuse to behave in a sensible, community-minded, responsible manner. And I especially feel sad for the medical personnel who have to stand by, exhausted and defeated, while another one of their patients dies in front of them.

After I wrote my response to the snarky servicemember, who probably answered me in the style of “Slow down there, ‘Dependa'”, it occurred to me that people like Kelly Ernby and her ilk have the LUXURY of speaking out about “optional” vaccines because generations before them did their parts and got vaccinated. Diseases that used to be much deadlier, like polio, smallpox, diphtheria, measles, influenza, cholera, malaria, anthrax, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and so forth, no longer kill as many people as they once did. And so, people like Kelly Ernby have no concept of how terrible communicable diseases can be, and how they can KILL innocent people, or cause permanent disabilities.

A few years ago, before COVID struck, I wrote a post about how a politician was promoting an episode of The Brady Bunch as an example of how “not serious” the measles is. Honestly, some politicians are truly stupid. Ignoring the fact that The Brady Bunch was, in no way, akin to real life, I suggest that anyone who thinks measles can’t be very serious and wants to use a 70s era sitcom as “proof”, first take a look at a 2001 episode of ER called “A Walk in the Woods” for a different perspective on how measles can affect and kill children. Yes, it’s true that many people don’t get that sick from measles, but it can and does make some people very sick and cause premature death. That’s why we’ve had a vaccine against it for so many years.

I’m against government overreach, as a basic rule, but when it comes to communicable diseases, particularly the kinds that are as deadly as COVID has proven to be, I definitely think that one person’s freedom of bodily autonomy ends where another person’s begins. And until COVID mutates to something less harmful, I do agree with vaccine mandates affecting those who can take the shots. It’s a matter of life and death for some people.

And as much as I don’t want to see Republican fringed nutjobs like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert in charge, I also don’t enjoy seeing people die of their own stupidity. I really hope some of these folks wise up and learn a lesson from people like Kelly Ernby. Unfortunately, it takes personal experience to change the hearts and minds of people who can’t see beyond their own pride. Isn’t it interesting that so many Republicans are supposedly devout Christians, but they still haven’t learned a very basic proverb– “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Let’s hope a few Republicans stop applying for Darwin Awards before they go completely extinct.

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disasters, modern problems, technology, transportation, travel

Get back on the bus, Russ?

This morning, I read an article in The New York Times indicating that many people have quit using trains and buses in cities around the world. Ridership has gone so low that there’s concern that public transportation systems will fail and there will be many related disasters. One of the biggest worries is that there will be a severe effect on the environment, since more people will be driving their own cars. I expect that with more people opting for private transport, there will also be bigger traffic jams and less available parking. However– I don’t think that consequence will happen unless life gets totally back to normal, if and when the pandemic ever ends.

As I read the article about how cities around the world are grappling with the low numbers of fare paying travelers and governments are having to bail out bus and train systems, I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder. It seems like it would only be natural that people aren’t wanting to use public transportation right now. Here’s a list of reasons:

  1. Most of us have been instructed NOT to travel unless we must.
  2. Many people are working from home, which eliminates the need to commute (and is probably better for the environment, too). Where I live, most businesses are closed, so why would I go anywhere?
  3. Who wants to ride in close quarters with a bunch of strangers, some of whom aren’t practicing social distancing or wearing proper masks?
  4. Who wants to ride on a bus having a bunch of people watching your every move and giving you the stinkeye if you aren’t wearing a mask the way they think you should?
  5. Isn’t it nicer not having to smell other people’s farts or halitosis? How about vomit, urine, poop, smoke, or booze? Or not being smushed standing up on a bus while some yucky guy cops a feel? That happened to me more than once in Armenia, where the buses would be filled until people were literally almost hanging off of them.

To me, it makes perfect sense that fewer people are taking public transportation. I think there are a lot of reasons why they aren’t using it. Some people, who were once bus or train riders, have opted to buy a car. According to the article, used car sales are up, and so are their prices. But some people are walking or riding bikes instead of using public transportation. Isn’t that a good thing, both for their health and the environment? Riding a bike is pretty low impact in terms of causing air pollution. So is walking.

The article makes it sound like the world will end if people don’t get back on the bus. And, I guess, if everyone suddenly starts driving a car instead of getting back on the bus, there could be serious problems. Mass transit systems are valuable sources of employment; they cost money to maintain, and they provide an efficient way of moving people that eliminates the need for parking spaces or sitting in traffic jams. However, more people than ever are working from home. Quite a few folks find that they like working from home and their employers are discovering that working from home is a viable option. They have lower overhead, the employee can handle minor personal business, and there’s no need for a commute. That means the employee can potentially sleep a little longer in the morning and maybe doesn’t have to spend as much money on work clothes or gas.

I read some of the comments about this article. So many people were writing that they don’t want to ride public transportation because they are concerned about anti-maskers spreading diseases. But there are probably just as many people who find riding on public transportation with militant mask enforcers just as unpleasant. I would rather ride privately in a car to avoid both types of people– the ones who don’t comply with the rules and engage in racist tirades, and the ones who act like mask cops and pay their kids to publicly call out rule breakers.

I have repeatedly stated that I won’t be willingly flying or cruising anywhere until the pandemic is under control, and I don’t have to be forced to wear a mask for hours while sitting in a cramped seat, being surveilled by flight attendants and other passengers after I’ve also been groped by airport security and had my bags searched. That just doesn’t sound pleasant to me, even as I understand why masks are important. I simply don’t want to spend money on that experience. For that reason, we’ll drive if and when we can travel. Mrs. Merkel did decide not to do the “hard” lockdown for Easter, but as it stands right now, most places I would want to go to aren’t taking visitors anyway.

I think, ultimately, the answer to this problem is mass vaccination and changing the way we do things. It sucks, although I do think that some of the changes could turn out to be positive. The article in The New York Times predicts disaster if the public transportation systems fail. But if people stop traveling so much for work and leisure, it seems to me that there could be a positive effect on the climate. If more people are able to work from home instead of clogging up the roads every day at rush hour, that could mean less air and noise pollution and less wear and tear on the road systems. And if people refuse to get with the program and get back on the bus as it is now, then perhaps the systems will evolve so that they are more appealing for riders. Hell… maybe more car manufacturers and municipalities will embrace electric cars instead of gas fed ones. That would be good for the environment and reduce noise pollution somewhat.

One thing I have noticed since we moved to Wiesbaden and live close to two Autobahns is that I can really hear the traffic here– both from the massive roads and the flights coming in to Frankfurt. One thing our homes in BW had over our home here is that it was a lot quieter (at least when the landlady wasn’t yelling at me about something).

I did think this article in The New York Times was interesting reading. If you have access to the NYT, I do recommend reading it for a look at how public transit systems around the world are coping, as people have stopped moving around as much. I think the people working in that industry are going to have to come up with creative and cost effective ways to make the system more attractive to riders. And that will mean they might have to consider why people are opting not to ride the bus or the train and adapt as necessary.

I can state that when I lived in Yerevan, public transportation was not comfortable. Riders were expected to cram in as much as possible, and it was not pleasant or safe. Today, I would imagine those buses that used to be stuffed to the gills with passengers are not so much, thanks to COVID-19. But in the 90s, when there wasn’t a pandemic, I remember having my crotch and my breasts explored by someone’s hands as I was mashed up against a stranger who hadn’t bathed in awhile (due to a lack of running or hot water in those days).

Public transport in Germany, pre-pandemic, was generally not that extreme, but I do remember some really crowded rides on the U-Bahn or city trains in Stuttgart. I remember there not being enough seats and almost falling on my face as the trains moved, because I had to stand in the aisle. Believe me, I have had my fill of public transportation. It’s a necessity for cities to have it available, but honestly, if you can arrange your own transport, why wouldn’t you? At least you have a say in how you will ride without having to deal with other people’s bullshit or bad behavior.

Even flying is less attractive these days. I remember how, about five years ago, a young pilot on Germanwings (now Eurowings) decided to kill himself and everyone else on the plane because he was so depressed. He deliberately crashed the plane and killed 150 people. Given how deadly COVID-19 is as it’s begun to mutate, perhaps the odds are becoming riskier for public transport users. Maybe 150 people on a bus won’t die because of COVID-19 spread, but for those who get the illness, it could mean long term disability and a permanent change of lifestyle.

Incidentally, my comments on not wanting to spend money to ride planes, trains, buses, or cruises don’t mean that I’m an “anti-masker”, either. I do follow the rules. A person can agree with the necessity for wearing masks, yet still hate the goddamned things and do what they can to avoid having to wear them. My need to travel is not so great that I have to get with the program, but I understand that I write from a place of extreme privilege. I know most people don’t have the choices I have. My point is, nowadays, since there is a pandemic, one really does take his or her life in their hands when one uses public transportation. City transportation experts should probably consider that, and act and change accordingly.

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complaints, disasters, dogs

See you next fall…

Many years ago, when I worked at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, I had a friend who worked on the Rhine River cruise ride. He was a big, strapping guy who sweated profusely and carried his lunches in Igloo coolers. I knew this guy, not just because we worked in the “German” part of Busch Gardens, but also because we were both from Gloucester, Virginia. He was the eldest of a large Irish Catholic family. I think he had eleven brothers and sisters, but I can’t say for sure. ETA: A mutual friend says that Shawn is the eldest of fourteen.

Anyway, this guy, name of Shawn, used to get a huge kick out of me. One time I asked him why he was so amused by my comings and goings. He said it was because I was always hurting myself somehow. And because I could swear a blue streak that would make a sailor blush.

This morning, I’m not so proud to admit that I did both of those things. The sad thing is, this morning’s injuries come almost exactly a week after my last significant injury… significance being a relative thing. I’m not talking about broken bones or even sprains. I’m talking about scraped knees and sore muscles from breaking sudden falls.

Last week’s accident happened when I was about to walk the dogs. It was cloudy and a little rainy. I was preparing to walk the dogs when I decided to check the mailbox. Noyzi has been getting a lot braver lately, so he followed me outside. Suddenly, I had a flashback to about a year ago, when the beagle we tried to adopt escaped the pet taxi driver who had brought him to us. He panicked and took off, as we watched helplessly. Hours later, he ended up getting killed on the Autobahn, which is very close to our house. Watching our would-be family member run to his death was devastating. We had been so looking forward to having him, only to see him take off running before we even got to pet him.

Noyzi runs like a locomotive. I don’t think he wants to run away. He seems to enjoy being a pet. He has his own big bed, doesn’t have to fight over food, and loves to take walks. He also seems to like me a lot, although he’s still afraid of Bill. Still, I knew that if he got spooked, as he occasionally does sometimes, I might be shit out of luck in getting him back. He is really fast! I panicked a bit when he came outside. I made a grab for his collar, but missed. I fell down, having lost my balance, and made another grab for him, which I missed. He quickly hit the deck, peeing submissively in the process. I tore off part of a thumbnail and badly scraped my right knee. I also got a big bruise.

It hurt. Falling down is not as painless when you’re middle aged. I literally saw stars and felt nauseous after I fell. Like, I might have been in danger of fainting from the sharp pain. I yelled a bit, because I was pissed off, humiliated, and hurt.

Healing takes longer, too. That knee is already pretty badly scarred from other spills, including one that happened during the summer of 1991, when I was working at Busch Gardens. That was by far the worst knee scrape I’ve ever had. I had just finished work and was taking my till to the cash control office when I slipped on the pebbly walkway. Because it was dark outside and had just rained, I didn’t realize how badly I was hurt until I went into cash control and handed over the till. I looked down and saw blood streaming from my knee. I asked the teller if she had any paper towels. She got a load of my knee and called the first aid office, who carted me off to the first aid station and patched me up. It took weeks for the wound to heal and I still have a deep scar.

So all last week, my knee has itched, bled, stung, and throbbed. My right thumbnail hurt like a motherfucker, since I broke the nail at the quick. As of today, it doesn’t hurt anymore, since the nail has grown. I’d say that injury, at least, is about recovered. But then I renewed my clutzy woes this morning.

Arran woke up at about 4:30am. He wanted his breakfast, since I didn’t have much of a dinner last night and he got few scraps. I got up, let him and Noyzi out, and fed them. Then I went back upstairs, but noticed that Arran hadn’t followed me. I know this trick. Arran will often stay behind and stealth pee if I don’t watch him. Not wanting to clean up an unnecessary mess, I went back downstairs to get Arran. Somehow, I tripped on a shoe. I remember feeling horrified as my ankle wobbled and I went down on my nice rug.

Mrs. Fletcher and I have something in common.

“FUCK!” I screamed. For the second time in a week, Arran was looking at me with a mixture of concern and fear. The expression on his face was like, “oh dear… she’s fallen and can’t get up!”

Yes, I literally screamed and wailed, in part because I was hurting, but also because I’m angry and frustrated. Because now, not only did I reopen the wound on my right knee and undo a week’s healing, but I also now have a scraped left knee and my left big toe is fucked up. This time the scrape is on the top part of the knee. It’s more of a rug burn, so I don’t think the flesh wound will take as long to recover. However, I also have a big bruise on top of the knee, and walking hurts. Add in the normal pain and stiffness I experience just for being old and fat, and you have someone whose Monday has gotten off completely wrong!

The kicker is, I’m supposed to drive somewhere today. It’s literally been months since I last drove anywhere. Like, it’s been so long, I don’t remember when I was last behind the wheel. It might have been in 2019, it was so long ago. And I have to drive the Volvo, because my car’s tires are low on air and even if I wanted to drive on low tires, I’d need to move Bill’s car anyway. Bill has been trying to find a working air pump at a gas station, but for some reason, the Wiesbaden area is low on functioning air pumps. We’ll probably end up ordering one.

Fortunately, the Volvo practically drives itself, and I only need to go about two or three kilometers. But the reason I have to drive is because I need to drop off a sample of Arran’s shit at the vet’s office. That just seems like a perfect Monday morning chore, doesn’t it? I still need to collect one sample before I go, too… and I’m not sure I can manage our usual walk today. My left knee really hurts. But the sun is out, and the dogs need the exercise. I need it too, but maybe only after I put on knee pads and elbow guards. Shawn would be so proud to see that nothing has changed since the 1990s, except now I’m older, heavier, and even more profane.

I haven’t even had an alcoholic drink since Saturday afternoon, so I can’t even blame this on being drunk. At least I finally finished binge watching Growing Pains.

You’d think I played rugby.
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